Applying for a PhD with LIBS

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How to Apply for PhD Study in Business 

We welcome applications from those wishing to pursue research study at the Lincoln International Business School. This page offers some guidelines to applicants - please read through this information in conjunction to the MPhil/PhD course information.

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LIBS Research Groups

Before submitting your application we recommend that you take a look at the research groups that sit within Lincoln International Business School, as all research should fit into at least one of these groups.

You should indicate in your application how your proposed research specifically aligns to the interests of a named research group.

Guidelines for Research Degree Proposals

When applying for the MPhil/PhD programme at the University of Lincoln, a research proposal will be an essential part of your application that will be used to assess both the academic potential of your proposed research and our ability to supervise and support you to a successful completion. The purpose of this document is to guide you in writing a research proposal and provide you with tips on how to write a good research application. Quality rather than quantity is the key to a good proposal; as such we are looking for 3000-5000 word research proposal.


A clear and succinct description of your research should be encapsulated in the title. Although during the course of your candidature your research will of course develop organically, and this may not be the title of your final thesis, your research proposal title should give a clear indication to supervisors of the area you are interested in exploring. We often see titles of research proposals that are either far too vague or broad, or too narrow and niche. Again, at this stage the title is a working or provisional title and it is likely that this will change as you continue to develop your research.


The introduction should set the context of your proposal and explain what you will research, why the research is of value and how you propose to go about it. The introduction is your opportunity to demonstrate that your proposed research has a significant contribution to existing bodies of literature. That is, it should explain clearly how your research will either fill a gap, develop, complete or follow on from previous research.

Although you will develop your ideas further in the main body of the text, your introduction should also include a short summary of your aims and objectives, your methodology and the expected outcomes/benefits of your research. Overall, you will be expected to show that you have a good knowledge of the body of literature, the wider context in which your research belongs and that you have awareness of methodologies, theories and conflicting evidence in your chosen field. It should be clear from the introduction what you want to do, why you want to do it and how you are going to achieve this.

Suggested format for an introduction:

  • Introduce the area of research
  • Review key publications
  • Identify any gap in the knowledge or questions which have to be answered
  • Your research aims and objectives, which may include research questions and hypotheses.  
  • A brief description of the methodology
  • How is your research beneficial

Literature Review

A thorough examination of key contributions in research sources relating to the area of research in question. You should use the literature review to identify gaps in, or problems with, existing research to justify why further or new research is required. This must be relevant and up to date, otherwise how will you know if what you are proposing is original? Even if you are basing this on work that you may have done previously (e.g. at Masters level) you should ensure that you have updated it with the latest developments in the literature since you wrote it. It is through the literature review that you lay the foundations for your research questions, by critically evaluating what has already been done, how it could be improved, where the gaps are, or what the new frontiers are that your research will address.


A clear description of your choice of methodology, including details of methods of data collection and analysis. This may include a description of the overall research design or research approach e.g. qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods research. It is important to explain why the proposed research method(s) are the most appropriate methodology to effectively address your research questions/objectives/hypotheses. It may also be a good idea to justify the methodology by explaining what alternatives have been considered and why these have been disregarded. We frequently receive feedback from potential supervisors that although they like the research idea, the applicant has not appreciated or understood the appropriate research methods to conduct the research. Although you will receive some research methods training on the programme, it is important that an awareness is demonstrated in the proposal, as this will inform an assessment of the feasibility of your project within the standard period of study (maximum of four years for full time students).


Include a list all literature sources cited in the proposal using Harvard style of referencing



Additional Tips

Make the Contribution Clear

This cannot be stressed enough. You need to demonstrate your knowledge of current literature on your topic and how your research would contribute to it. What would your research add to current literature and what would make a unique contribution to research on the topic? To do this, you need to draw on relevant research (not everything ever written on the topic but key articles/texts) and demonstrate critical reflection on this work and how your own study would add to it. 

Have a Good, Specific Title

Be sure to include important key words that relate to your research and make sure your title goes beyond just describing the topic. It should give a clear indication of your approach and research questions.

Define a Clear Aim and Your Objectives

This should provide you with a clear framework for undertaking the research, so be clear and concise. You cannot cover everything on the topic within a PhD so be specific about what you are seeking to explore. Typically an overarching aim and 3 – 5 objectives works well, and then use these to justify the major approaches you will take, in terms of concepts, theory, empirical approach etc.

Have a Strong Research Design and Methodology

Of course, MPhil/ PhD study often evolves as a result of developing the literature review, but having a clear method at the start will help you and potential supervisors determine the viability of your research. Set out in clear terms your overall approach (e.g. will it be mainly qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods research, does it involve primary data collection and if so, what methods will you use?). Justify your approach by engaging in literature on the pros and cons of your specific methodological choices so that you can, for example, justify why survey data might be appropriate, or in-depth interviews are the best approach, or indeed a combination of different methods. Also include a clear timeline for completing these tasks along with the other elements of your PhD (literature review, analysis, writing up etc.). A well-developed methodology section is crucial, so include how you will get the data you require and techniques regarding analysis and a rationale for these choices.

Don't Produce a Proposal for 'Mass Consumption'

If you are applying to multiple institutions make sure you understand and tailor your proposal to the relevant research being undertaken there. Research the University and department you are applying to, its staff and the research they are undertaking related to your topic. Readers can easily spot if a proposal has been produced for mass consumption.

Avoid Plagiarism

This one should be obvious. Make sure that all of your work is your own, written in your own words. You need to ensure that the literature review and the way the contribution is defined and developed, as well as all other elements, are correctly cited using appropriate references and that they are written by you. If not, your application will not succeed.

Let Your Passion for the Topic Shine Through

By constructing a clear and well written proposal, your interest in the topic should be clear. Demonstrate your interest in the topic and what the study aims to achieve – this may include contributions to theory, but might also have practical applications such as recommendations for policy and/or practice.

EU and Internationl Students

EU and International students will require English Language IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in each element, or equivalent. Please click here for more information.

Contact Us

Please contact us by email at if you have any further questions before completing an application.